Brooklyn Sails The Mac
Mackinac (pronounced Mack-in-aw) Island is a very small island that sits in the Mackinac Straits between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan and between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The island doesn't allow cars, so transportation is limited to horse and buggy, bicycle or walking. Mackinac Island is also the finish line to two of the largest, most challenging regattas in the world -- the Mac Races (or more formally known as the "Race to Mackinac" sponsored by the Chicago Yacht Club and the Bayview Mackinac (or Port Huron to Mackinac) Race sponsored by Bayview Yacht Club of Detroit.) The Mac races are also the largest fresh water regattas in the world.
On Saturday, July 15, Sail Brooklyn will be taking a little hiatus to participate in the 82nd running of the Bayview Mackinac race. More than 300 boats, ranging from the 86-foot Windquest to 27-feet (there are two that size), comprising 20 classes in two divisions will race the distance of Lake Huron to Mackinac Island. And while sailing cogniscenti may not recognize the Midwest as one of the most active sailing scenes in the country, the proof is in the data: more than 20-percent of the fleet are sailing in one-design classes, including eight GL-70s; seven J-105s; eight NA-40s; nine J-120s; 12 J35s; and 17 C&C 35s (Mk-I), warhorses from early 1970s.
We'll be racing on Bananas, a 1978 North American-40 (NA-40). The NA-40, designed by Dick Carter, was commissioned by Detroit sailors in the late 70s who wanted their own one-design racer. Our fleet of eight NA-40s is racing on the Shore Course (aka the Ladies Tees), which is 204 nautical miles up Lake Huron. (The other course, the Southampton Course, is 253nm and is named for the Southampton light you round before heading north). The NA-40 class, while small, and somewhat disrespected by the local Detroit fleet, is very competitive. Two years ago in the Bayview Mackinac Race, after more than 200 miles from Port Huron, it came down to a tacking duel between three boats for second place. The winning NA-40 of that year, Majic Star, beat the class by a good margin and was first overall (corrected time) among the Shore Course fleet.
The majority of participants are Midwestern, but it also draws sailors from across the country and around the world to compete in the challenging conditions of the Great Lakes, where sometimes the breezes are fickle and 30-minutes later, a storm, out of nowhere, builds to incredible strength. Last year's race, the fastest race on record, had a Sunday night squall producing winds over 30-knots dismasting one boat and tearing countless sails.
In addition to unpredictable conditions, the Mac is known for its parties. The first is Boat Night, which is the party the Friday before the race. Thousands from metro Detroit head to Port Huron to see the fleet rafted up on the Black River and to have a good time. The second race is the Awards Party, taking place on the Tuesday. The party is on a beautiful piece of land, off Mission Point on Mackinac Island, which overlooks the majestic Staits. Typically a somewhat raucous, but very fun event has a mix of drunken sailors, in various states of drunkenness, their drunken wives, some kids and a mix of others. When the official party ends, the party continues at the Pink Pony Bar until the wee hours of the evening.